Personality attributes most important to be successful corporate counsel

As reported in In-House Corporate Counsel Barometer 2006, Canadian Corp. Counsel Assoc. at 12, these are the results from 780 Canadian corporate counsel who ranked 11 attributes as 1 (most important), 2 or 3. The percentage of the respondents who gave the attribute one of the three top ranks follows in that order in the parenthesis.

“Ability to see the big picture” (35% 1-68% 1, 2, or 3)
“Ability to multi-task” (22-53)
“Ability to work with diverse groups” (7-33)
“Adaptability” (8-31)
“Ability to handle stress” (9-29)
“Ability to rise to challenges” (6-22)
“Creativity” (4-21)
“Orientation to detail” (3-15)
“Willingness to work hard” (3-13)
“Sense of humour” (2-12)
“Other” (1-3)

The highest-ranked attribute sounds like the skill of weighing all competing interests fairly, keeping in mind the goals of the business, and looking down the road. In the big picture, you represent the company, not an individual manager.

I don’t understand the high ranking of working with diverse groups; it probably has to do not with demographic diversity but with interactions with numerous clients at different levels. “Adaptability” and “multi-tasking” touch on the fast-pace and unexpectedness of legal issues that descend on a corporate attorney, and which demand a constant ability to adjust to new priorities. They and four other personality attributes relate to pressure: “stress,” “creativity,” “challenge,” and “work hard” (See my posts of June 12, 2005 on stress generally; April 16, 2006 on solo GCs’ stress compared to Deputy GCs’; and Feb. 8, 2006 on litigation stress.).

What’s missing? Perhaps “intelligence” is not deemed a personality attribute? Or “integrity?” (See my post of April 27, 2006 on psychometric tests and the referrals cited.). Other attributes of lawyers that could make the list include curiosity, tenacity, willingness to share knowledge, analytic ability, and a practical bent. As the list stands, these are all admirable attributes of law firm lawyers, too.

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